Mayoral candidates waffle on budget questions

Thumbnail image for cityhall2.jpgDuring still another mayoral debate, a tenacious Austin Beutner (who knew?) kept asking the candidates for specific ways of closing the city's $1-billion budget deficit - and he got the usual double-talk that has become the hallmark of this very beige and undistinguished campaign. Beutner, the former deputy mayor who himself considered running, would interrupt the candidates as they blathered on, but he couldn't get them to stray from their oft-repeated talking points. From the LAT:

Greuel answered in vague terms, as she often does, about the importance of eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse," spurring job creation, eliminating the business tax "and putting everything on the table in negotiations on pension reform, health care costs" with labor leaders. She noted that she is auditing two pension systems to determine if the city is getting the best return on its investment. "The concepts are all fine, but let's try to narrow it down, because I'm trying to figure out where it's going to come from," Beutner interjected. "There's no magic bullet," Greuel said after Beutner challenged her several times for specific numbers. "What it will take is someone who's actually managed," she said, alluding to her experience in her family business and at City Hall. Beutner, a former investment banker, turned to Garcetti: "Eric, $1.4 billion -- I'm still looking for it."

Garcetti highlighting the progress that the City Council has made in finding "hundreds of millions of dollars of savings" in salaries and pensions over the last few years. He said his plan for solving the deficit would include building business in Los Angeles and cutting healthcare costs by $50 million (with a goal of asking employees to contribute 10% toward their benefits). Beutner cut Garcetti off, noting that he has argued against increasing the sales tax while advocating for eliminating the business tax -- which, he noted, could mean a loss of an additional $488 million in revenue: "So you're talking now about a $2-billion hole," Beutner said. "Where is that going to come from?" "Not at all," Garcetti replied. "When we reduce the business tax, we add more revenue in."

Meanwhile, L.A.'s budget head, Miguel Santana, is warning that without passage next month of a sales tax hike the city could be in store for serious budget cuts, including 500 fewer police officers (see LAT story). The proposed tax increase is being opposed by the candidates, which would be fine if they had an alternative way of raising the necessary revenue. Except they don't. Just a lot of blather.

More by Mark Lacter:
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How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
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Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent Campaign 2013 stories:
Shallman and Carrick on 'Which Way, LA?' tonight
Greuel consultant blames the LA Times
Morning Buzz: Friday 5.24.13
Campaign 2013 photo gallery by Gary Leonard
Election post-mortem in quotes (some very pointed)

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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